Author Archives: Rachel Ruhlen

New Public Participation Plan adopted

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) adopted a Public Participation Plan on February 22, 2018, replacing the 2007 Public Participation Plan.

The purpose of public participation is to support transportation planning and promote the integrity and transparency of the transportation planning process.

RVTPO wants public participation to be:

  • Meaningful to the public – People should feel that their comments matter. Public input into a transportation plan should be timely, happen early enough to influence the outcome, and continue as the plan develops. The RVTPO is accountable to the public for their input. RVTPO Policy Board decisions reflect the diversity of viewpoints.
  • High quality – When people understand that transportation planning is complex, regional, and long-term, they can give input that is relevant, thoughtful, and practical. The RVTPO educates and explains transportation planning. Clarity of purpose and clarity of expectation improve the quality of public input.
  • Variety of input – The RVTPO seeks a breadth of representation in public input that is from different points of view, different needs, and different backgrounds.
  • High quantity – The more people who are engaged, the better the RVTPO can understand the transportation needs and priorities of the region. The RVTPO will provide convenient and delightful ways to participate with many options of how to participate, and continue to seek new ways to invite participation.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) fully complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities. The RVTPO also complies with ADA requirements. For more information about Title VI and ADA compliance, click here.

Notice of Public Hearing on Public Participation Plan

A public hearing on the proposed “Public Participation Plan” will take place at a meeting of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization Policy Board on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission office, 313 Luck Avenue, SW, Roanoke, VA 24016.  You may view the draft plan online or contact Rachel Ruhlen, Ph: 540-343-4417, or E-mail:  rruhlen@rvarc.org.

The Public Participation Plan development process satisfies the requirements for public participation in the development and adoption of the Transit Program of Projects.  The RVTPO strives to provide reasonable accommodations and services for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities.  Hearing impaired persons can call 711 for access.  The RVTPO fully complies with Title VI of the Civic Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities.  For more information, or to obtain a Discrimination Complaint Form, see http://rvarc.org/transportation/title-vi-and-ada-notices/ or call 540-343-4417.

Seeking public input on how we get public input!

The 2016 Federal Certification Review of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) identified the 2007 Public Participation Plan as out of date and recommended developing a new plan. An ad-hoc committee representing diverse transportation issues developed a new Public Participation Plan. The public comment period will be open until Monday, February 19, 2018. A public hearing will be held at the RVTPO Policy Board meeting on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Please review the draft: Draft Public Participation Plan 2017 12 14. Don’t have time to read a long document? No worries – focus on pages 15 – 31. Thank you!

The 45-day public comment period is now closed. If you have questions or comments, please:

  • Email rruhlen@rvarc.org
  • Call Rachel at (540) 343-4417
  • Stop by our offices at 313 Luck Ave SW, Roanoke VA 24016.

RVARC researches online survey tools

Example of a MetroQuest survey

Choosing the right online survey tool is one of several critical aspects to a successful survey. RVARC staff researched other cities, states, and MPOs to learn which survey tools other agencies are using and for what purposes.

RVARC staff considered several factors in evaluating online survey tools. Online survey tools generally have standard options such as multiple choice, select all that apply, short answer, and long answer. Some survey tools allow image-based questions or skip-logic depending on how the respondent answers a question. Some create mobile-friendly surveys or surveys that can be embedded in a website. Some survey tools limit the survey to a single page. An integrated map tool is an essential feature for transportation-related surveys.

SurveyMonkey is a standard among many agencies, and inexpensive. The RVARC has subscribed to SurveyMonkey for years.

Google Forms is a free option that is easy to use and integrate into a website or email.

MetroQuest surveys can get thousands of responses. MetroQuest specializes in public input for planning. MetroQuest developed a survey tool with the philosophy that public input should be a delightful experience.

Taking a MetroQuest survey is like playing a video game. Respondents drop virtual coins into different buckets representing road maintenance, transit, or sidewalks. They drag topics to the top of a list to indicate their priorities. They experiment with scenarios to modulate trade-offs among their priorities. They move pointers around on a map. MetroQuest is an excellent, though costly, survey tool.

Other survey tools that could be used for public input include PublicInput.com, Snap Surveys, Survey Act, Survey Gizmo, and SoGoSurvey. Tools for interactive forum discussions on individual projects include Mind Mixer, Peak Democracy, and Bang the Table.

You may see some of these tools employed in the next Long-Range Transportation Plan update.

Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee is accepting applications!

The Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, formerly the Bicycle Advisory Committee, is now accepting applications for membership. The purpose of the Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) Transportation Technical Committee (TTC), is to facilitate regional collaboration with diverse stakeholders in planning bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the Roanoke Valley.

Committee work includes walking and bicycling around the Valley!

Planners and Engineers Ride

Engineer-guided tour of the Garden City Greenway

The draft Public Participation Plan is in a library near you

To make the draft Public Participation Plan more accessible, we distributed copies to 14 libraries in the urbanized Roanoke Valley. Planner Rachel Ruhlen drove 100 miles to deliver copies to eight of the libraries, as far out as Fincastle, Blue Ridge, Glenvale, and South County. She biked another 10 miles to deliver copies to six of the libraries in the City. The libraries have a delivery service that can be used for distributing copies for public comment, but Ms. Ruhlen enjoyed visiting corners of the region she’d never seen before, meeting librarians, and seeing the draft Public Participation Plan in libraries. You can view and comment on the plan online – or go to the nearest library!

Roanoke Valley libraries in the urbanized area

The Roanoke Valley libraries in the urbanized area are:

  • Vinton (Roanoke County)
  • Fincastle (Botetourt)
  • Blue Ridge (Botetourt)
  • Hollins (Roanoke County)
  • Williamson Road (Roanoke City)
  • Salem
  • Glenvar (Roanoke County)
  • South County (Roanoke County)
  • Mount Pleasant (Roanoke County)
  • Jackson Park (Roanoke City)
  • Raleigh Court (Roanoke City)
  • Melrose (Roanoke City)
  • Gainsboro (Roanoke City)
  • Main (Roanoke City)

Workshop on Performance Measurement of Transportation to Promote Economic Vitality

Workshop attendees discuss economic development and transportation

“We don’t have transportation for the sake of transportation,” Eric Sundquist from Transportation for America (T4America, a program of Smart Growth America) told workshop attendees. “Transportation helps us achieve other goals,” such as getting to a job or moving freight. The link between transportation and the regional economy is strong, but their relationship is changing.

Chris Zimmerman, Vice President for Economic Development Smart Growth America, described this and how investments in transportation help economic growth. In the past decades, economic development was often cheap land near a highway. Mr. Zimmerman explained that the return on investment of that model is declining, and today’s successful economic development efforts will focus on walkability and infill development to attract high wage workers and their employers.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) recently received a technical assistance grant from T4America to incorporate performance measures into transportation planning. At the same time, the RVTPO hired Economic Development Research Group, Inc. (EDR) to identify 5-10 transportation projects that will promote regional economic development. The Regional Study on Transportation Project Prioritization for Economic Development and Growth steering committee directs both efforts.

T4America, EDR, and the RVTPO invited members of the steering committee, the RVTPO Policy Board, the RVTPO Transportation Technical Committee, and other business and economic development stakeholders to a workshop at the Green Ridge Recreation Center on November 29. Over 40 participants discussed:

  • What makes a good transportation performance measure to assess progress toward economic development goals
  • How to use performance measures to select projects, such as in VDOT’s Smart Scale funding process
  • What a transportation need is

View the presentations here.

T4America and EDR will return in 2018 to follow up with a second workshop.

Bike to Work Day!

The Regional Commission Bike Room recently got a facelift. A cleanup and a little paint transformed it from a dank and scary closet into a bright and spacious room. The six (of thirteen) employees who sometimes bike celebrated the improved Bike Room by all biking on the same day! Before the renovation, this would have been a problem– the Bike Room didn’t hold six bicycles.

Before work began, the bike room shared space with janitorial and other supplies.

RIDE Solutions staff Tim and Jeremy painted and laid tile. Renovation cost: $0! They selected paint and tiles from what they had on hand.

The maximum capacity before renovation was 4 bikes. The capacity after is 6 bikes and room to spare!

The parking lot is normally full, unless we’re all at a meeting. Today is was empty– but we were all here!

All 6 bikes in 1 parking space

Each bike in its own parking space

How do you get your baby to the WIC office up the hill?

A steep hill to push a stroller on a hot day

“The bus doesn’t stop in front of the WIC office in the Northwest. Mothers have to walk two blocks to get there with babies and toddlers.”

This comment was a response to a survey question about long range transportation planning. The Northwest WIC clinic is at the First Church of the Brethren on Carroll Ave NW on top of the ridge. The nearest bus stop is only a quarter-mile away, but no one wants to push a stroller up that steep and treeless climb.

Betty at the WIC clinic gets off the bus four blocks away to avoid the arduous hill. The WIC clinic sees fewer clients than expected because of the hill. Mothers arrive hot and sweaty and asking for water.

The Public Participation Plan ad-hoc committee, tasked with developing a new public participation plan for the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization, reviewed the survey responses. After we read that comment, a member observed, “A mother trying to get her baby to the WIC office isn’t interested in a 20-year transportation plan.”

Does your long-range transportation vision include easy access to the WIC office for everyone? How would you solve this problem? What other problems would your solutions introduce?

Solution Feasibility issues Introduced problems
Reroute the bus Affects the rest of the route
Move the WIC office Inferior office space, cost
Run a van to the bus stop Expensive insurance, child seats, staff time
Call Uber for the last block Expensive at $7.70, and no child seats Introduce traffic congestion
Automated vehicles Don’t exist yet Introduce traffic congestion

 

Over the past decades, the region and the nation has done an excellent job of making it easy for most people to get anywhere. The Roanoke Valley has lots of cars, lots of roads, and lots of parking places. Roanoke’s collective mobility is better than ever.

In making it so easy for most people to get everywhere, it’s become very difficult for some people to get anywhere. Over 13% of the Roanoke City households don’t have a car, but nearly all destinations can only be accessed by a car. More than 1 in every 10 people are virtually excluded from daily life: having a job, shopping, visiting the doctor, or going to church, just so that the other 9 of us can do all these things so easily.

This situation has been decades in the making, and will not change overnight. The long-range transportation plan, updated every 5 years, is about getting the balance right, keeping it easy for most people to get most places without putting a great transportation burden on the most disadvantaged.

APA Virginia Chapter Annual Conference

RVARC staff were delighted to participate in APA Virginia Chapter’s annual statewide conference here in Roanoke this week. Staff coordinated the Local Food Mobile Tour in conjunction with City of Roanoke, Virginia – Government staff. This tour showcased the West End neighborhood revitalization efforts. Special thanks to LEAP for Local FoodRoanoke Community Garden Association, Freedom First Credit Union and Carilion, among other speakers!

Fresh produce on the Local Food Mobile Tour

Staff assisted RIDE Solutions with the “Where the Sidewalk Ends” mobile tour and scavenger hunt. Participants competed to complete tasks in three regions– Downtown, Crystal Springs, and The Towers– with limited transportation resources.

“Where the sidewalk ends” scavenger hunt required participants to navigate obstructions.